Cork boxers are forced to call time out on their European Championship hopes

Cork boxers are forced to call time out on their European Championship hopes
Leanne Murphy, Togher BC with her coaches Sean and Louise Forde after winning her boxing award

CORK’S Leanne Murphy and Patrick Lawlor will have to bide their time until they step into the ring to represent their country at the 2020 European Men’s and Women’s Youth Championships.

The Togher BC and Brian Dillon’s BC pair claimed places on the Irish team for the Europeans after winning National U18 titles at the National Stadium in Dublin in late January.

The champions from that tournament were in training camp until the coronavirus pandemic struck and European boxing chiefs postponed the Euro Youths which were slated for Budva, Montenegro next month.

Murphy beat Dublin light-welter Nicole O’Sullivan on a 3-2 split decision in her final and Lawlor followed that up with a 4-1 split verdict over Ballyhaunis BC middleweight Eoghan Lavin to take home the 75kg belt.

The European Youths were scheduled to begin in Budva on the Adriatic coast before the European Boxing Confederation pulled the plug.

“Unfortunately, (the) COVID-19 pandemic is posing serious health and logistical risks, and we have been forced to postpone the Youth European Boxing Championships until May 15–27, part of a European Boxing Confederation statement read.

“We will monitor the situation of the spread of COVID-19 and reserve the right to review the dates of the championships if the problem has not yet been resolved.”

Leanne Murphy, Togher BC with her coaches Sean and Louise Forde after winning her boxing award
Leanne Murphy, Togher BC with her coaches Sean and Louise Forde after winning her boxing award

Murphy’s and Lawlor’s titles were the first Irish belts that Cork boxing won this year, and both athletes were full value for their victories, according to Michael O’Brien.

“Leanne and Patrick performed magnificently against quality opposition and congratulations to both boxers, their coaches, and their clubs on winning our first titles of 2020," said the Cork board president.

“They got the new year off to a flying start for Cork boxing. They worked hard for their success, and they deserved their wins at the National Stadium.”

O’Brien predicted that more national crowns would follow after that double, and the Cork boxing chief didn’t have long to wait to celebrate another brace of gold medals at the Stadium.

A few weeks after January’s triumphs, Katie O’Keeffe (Kanturk BC) once again emerged victoriously, and Michael Faulkner joined his Togher BC team-mate Murphy on the 2020 winners podium at the home of Irish boxing.

O’Keeffe, a two-time European Schoolgirl medalist, beat Donegal’s Carleigh Irvine on a 3-2 split in the light-flyweight final on February 28 and Faulkner made it two on the bounce on the same day after seeing off the Wexford fighter with the iconic boxing name, Jack Dempsey.

Twenty-four hours later, Cork was unlucky not to add to its tally on a date that only exists once every four years, February 29, with Martin Keenan (Leeside Lough BC) and Dylan Bradley (Muskerry BC) between the ropes in the light-middle and light-heavy finals.

Both young men gave solid accounts of themselves, but lost to Dublin pair Joshua Olaniyan and Joe Hutchinson. “Cork could have taken a few more titles out of the Senior Cadets, some of our boxers were unlucky,” added O’Brien.

“All of our athletes at the Championships gave it their all, and you couldn’t ask any more of them.”

Fifth:

Meanwhile, Macroom southpaw Christina Desmond technically won the fifth title for Cork in 2020 at last November’s Elite Championships.

That tournament was scheduled for February this year, but was run early to facilitate Ireland’s boxers going into this month’s European qualifiers for Tokyo 2020.

Desmond, who boxes out of the Fr Horgan’s BC and Garda BC, beat Offaly’s Grainne Walsh — who she outpointed in the February 2019 final — in November to confirm her status as Ireland’s top female welterweight.

Desmond was beaten in the preliminaries of the European Olympic qualifiers at London’s Copperbox Arena this month by Italy’s No. 3 seed Angela Carina.

The Rome southpaw is a World Elite silver medallist and not the current World Elite champion as erroneously reported elsewhere.

She reached the World Elite light-welter final last year, but was beaten by China’s Dou Dan for gold in Siberia and she also lost to Russia Darina Sandakova in the 2019 European final.

Still, the Italian was world-class opposition and her three-rounder with Desmond was a lot closer than the unanimous decision to the Azzurri lefty suggested.

Desmond was part of a 13-strong Irish squad at the qualifiers which were postponed just three days into the 11-day competition because of the Covid-19 virus.

Brendan Irvine qualified for the 32nd Olympiad by finishing in the top eight in London. Sixteen flyweights, including Irvine, and featherweights, made the grade at 43-nation dust up the Copperbox Arena.

Kellie Harrington, Michaela Walsh, Michael Nevin, Aidan Walsh, Emmet Brennan, Kiril Afanasev, Dean Gardiner, Aoife O’Rourke, and George Bates will be still in the mix for Tokyo 2021 berths when the tournament resumes.

However, Desmond, Kurt Walker and Carly McNaul lost in London and their European route to Tokyo is closed and they’ll be aiming, if selected, for the final world qualifier in Paris this summer.

That tournament was pencilled in for May, but is unlikely to get the green light until June because of the coronavirus. As things stand, 112 boxers have qualified through the completed Africa and Asia/Oceania events and the partially completed London tournament which still has 61 Olympic places on offer.

Desmond, meanwhile, is looking to become the first Cork boxer since Michael Roche (Sunnyside BC) to qualify for the Olympics.

Roche booked a ticket for Sydney 2000 at the 2000 Chemistry Cup in Germany after reaching the light-middleweight final in Halle this month 20 years ago. The Sunnyside BC man was Ireland’s only boxer at Sydney 2000.

Two hundred and eighty-six boxers — 186 males and 100 females — will battle it out at Tokyo 2020 in eight weights for men and five limits for women.

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